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Fire & Ice boosts Lititz’s coolness factor Seventy-six ice sculptures, chili cook-off Saturday
By: MELISSA HUNNEFIELD Record Express Staff, Staff Writer
While the voting isn’t officially tallied, it seems fairly certain that this weekend’s Fire & Ice Festival will be celebrated in the new "Coolest Small Town in America."
Planners for this year’s Festival, now in its eighth year, not only increased the size of the venue, but its duration as well. Activities have been added on Sunday afternoon, and ice sculptures and vendors will be set up in Lititz Springs Park as well as along the first blocks of Main and Broad streets.
While 43 local businesses are responsible sponsoring ice sculptures, the coordination of the event was in the hands of one woman — Dawn Rissmiller. Unfortunately, Rissmller fell and broke her knee cap at the beginning of the year. She hasn’t allowed the injury to slow her down, however.
"Bomberger’s came through with a Gator that they are letting me use this year to get around during the event," Rissmiller said.
The injury, surprisingly, didn’t present the biggest challenge for Rissmiller.
"This year was very hard on me personally because my co-founder decided to move on and I am doing a lot of it on my own," she lamented. "My heart and soul are in it, so I have a hard time saying no to anyone that wants to be part of the festival, even if we have passed the deadline. Somehow I find a way to make it work. I love this town, so I try my hardest to make a venue that everyone will love so they keep coming back."
In addition to the activities listed below, visitors to the festival can expect some last minute additions and surprises.
The weekend officially kicks off at 5 p.m. Feb. 15 with a block party, encompassing the first blocks of Main Street, Broad Street and Lititz Springs Park.
DiMartino Ice Company of Jeannette, Pa. will be carving seven ice sculptures live this year throughout the day. Their handiwork will be available for viewing after 5 p.m. Attendees can anticipate viewing 76 unique frozen works of art at this year’s festival. The sculptures will be displayed in the first blocks of E. Main Street, Broad Street and in Lititz Springs Park.
Stray Lights, a local lighting company, will be illuminating many of the sculptures exhibited in the park. Over 30 food and product vendors will be set up throughout the block party.
The number of ice sculptures has nearly doubled from last year.
"I am so excited," Rissmiller said. "We are so big that the designers are actually sculpting some of them on Thursday because of the magnitude of our event."
Entertainment will be provided by a variety of acts: fire-eater Michael Thomas, PA Senior Idol runner up and percussionist Deb Olsen, Pulse Dance Studio, WJTL, magician Insanity Factor and drummer "Bobby D" Jones.
"When it comes to a community pulling together to create a fun-filled family event, in Lititz we set the standard," Jones commented. "It’s like Christmas comes again on Feb. 15, 16 and 17. Only this time, it ‘s in the coolest town on earth, Lititz, Pa."
The block party wraps up at 9 p.m., but the sculptures will continue to be on display throughout the weekend.
Winter Wonderland Carnival
Geared primarily towards children, the Winter Wonderland Carnival features inflatables, games, food, contests and entertainment. Special surprise guests will be strolling throughout the event as well. The carnival is pay-as-you-go and tickets will be available at the carnival entrance which is the main gym next to Grosh football field. Parking is available in the lots adjacent to the fields.
The carnival is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 16.
Twenty hopeful chefs, each representing a different charity, will vie for the coveted title of The People’s Champion.
Among the charities represented this year are: March of Dimes, Landis Homes Caring Fund, Alzheimer’s Association, Breast Cancer, Lititz recCenter, Appalachian Trail Mission Project, Grace Church, Lititz Fire Company, Lititz Library, KPETS, Lititz Christian School, Cast Away Critters, EARS, Hospice of Lancaster and Woodridge Pool.
Over the years, the judges have tasted various white chilis, veggie chili, beef, elk, chicken, steak, chocolate chili, spicy chili, sweet chili and "secret ingredient" chilis.
Among this year’s celebrity judges are: Todd Rucci, Dawn Rissmiller, Dr. April Hershey, Jared Hahn, Karen Weibel and Chef Tom Gillan.
Chili Cook-Off admission buttons cost $8 in advance and $10 at the door. They are available at: Bomberger’s, Dosie Dough, Moravian Manor and Stauffers of Kissel Hill. Those living outside the area call call 371-2039 to purchase tickets.
The cook-off will be held in the Warwick High School cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 16. Those attending should enter at the front of the high school.
Family Movie Night
The 1968 children’s classic "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" will be screened at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at Linden Hall’s Steinman Arts Center theater, located at 212 E. Main St. Admission is free and refreshments will be available for purchase.
The beloved movie musical stars Dick Van Dyke, Lionel Jeffries and Benny Hill.
A new addition to this year’s festival is a dodgeball tournament, to be held in the Warwick High School gym on Feb. 17 from 2 to 7 p.m.
The tourney will feature brackets for grades 6-9, 10-12 and adults. Spectators are welcome.
An up-to-date list of the weekend’s schedule can be found at lititzfireandicefestival.com.
The Lititz LEOs
Rissmiller has a dedicated army of volunteers working under her this year, many of whom hail from the Lititz LEO Club.
The LEO Club is made up of middle and high school students who volunteer in the community to support local organizations and the vision impaired. They work closely and are governed by the Lititz Lions Club and Lions International.
"It is a fantastic group of kids who have so much energy and enthusiasm that it inspires me!" Rissmiller said of her young charges. "They are such good kids. Recently at a meeting, our presenter said that the LEOs were the ‘cream of the crop kids.’ I truly believe that. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this team."
The LEOs will man a food stand and several inflatables at the block party and winter carnival.
Middle or high school students interested in joining the LEOs should visit lititzlions.org and click on the LEO link. The application is available along with basic club information.
Rissmiller offered a preview of what’s on tap for next year.
"We are already planning three new venues for the event — a Snowball Dance, a Run, and a full blown concert in the park during the Friday Night Block Party."
Adults or groups wishing to volunteer for next year’s event should call Rissmiller at 371-1846 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for specific volunteer opportunities.
Aside from work and home, the Fire & Ice Festival has consumed Rissmiller’s life.
"You live it and breathe it for a couple of months. It’s very stressful. My husband said at Christmas, ‘I’ll see you in March,’ Rissmiller jokes. "If you ask him right now, though, he would probably laugh and say it is more like the entire year I live and breathe it."
"It’s my baby," Rissmiller continued. "It’s hard not to totally gush when I think about it," she added. "I’m not sure whether I am totally sleep-deprived or just that giddy, but whenever I see our commercial, talk to someone or read something about the event I start smiling and even giggling. It’s surreal… years and years of so much hard work and now you see your baby blossoming. It’s an unbelievable feeling." More FIRE & ICE, page A10